Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, May 25, 2001

Hawaii film officials to
promote isles in N.Y.

By Tim Ryan

Desperate times call for innovative measures. Just the threat of the motion picture and television writers' strike earlier this month and the still-planned actors' strike July 1 has pretty much stopped plans for film and television productions in Hawaii.

So state and county film commissioners next month will travel to New York City to host an informational luncheon for 400 of the top commercial makers in the United States to lure these lucrative productions to Hawaii.

The producers will attend the annual Association of Independent Commercial Producers gathering June 11 to 13, which last year attracted as many as 1,500 producers.

The event is being held at the Museum of Modern Art.

With the possible shutdown of television and motion picture production because of the actors' strike, revenues generated in Hawaii by commercials become "far more important" for 2001, said Donne Dawson, interim Hawaii Film Office manager. "Commercials have always been Hawaii's bread and butter," she said.

Hawaii last year set a record for film and television revenues at about $136 million. Commissioners have been scrambling this year to attract productions, but with the exception of "Jurassic Park III" on Oahu and Kauai and a few days production for Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" on the Big Island, filming here has been almost nonexistent.

Hawaii film revenues alone last year were $51.5 million, television productions about $30 million, and commercials $7.5 million.

The Hawaii commissioners -- from the Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and Honolulu counties, and film office manager Dawson -- will have two hours to make their pitch to the luncheon guests June 13, focusing on the state's diverse locations, infrastructure, crew base, community and government support, and production successes from "Hawaii Five-0" to "Pearl Harbor."

A group of Hawaii production people have been invited to attend at their own expense.

The two days prior to the luncheon, the commissioners will meet with New York news media and television and photo representatives.

"We believe ... many commercial producers don't know specifically what Hawaii has to offer," Dawson said.

Cost of the luncheon -- including lei for the guests and entertainment (a Hawaiian band and hula dancers) and prizes (a trip to Hawaii and some aloha shirts) -- is about $35,000, not counting travel and accommodation expenses for each commissioner.

The film commissioners have hosted similar events at the Sundance Film Festival, but this will mark their first marketing trip to the Big Apple.

The state and county film staff had received approval to fund "a familiarization tour" for several film and television producers at a cost of more than $50,000, but with the looming strike "it was impossible for us to make that happen," Dawson said.

The group expects to spend five days in New York.

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